The moment I saw the ‘Only 6% of People with iPhones Use Apple Pay‘ survey advertisement appear on Apple news sites (they took the bait, mission accomplish!), I knew all the major Apple blog gasbags would clock in with their important opinions. And they did. Look folks, this survey stuff is a craps game. One thing I have learned in Japan is that payment survey data are all over the place. Reliable information is hard to find. PYMENTS.com sez their survey is ‘based on PYMNTS’ national study of 3,671 U.S. consumers conducted between Aug. 3-10, 2021.’ Okay but how, where, what’s the age spread and whom are we talking about here? Grandma’s in Savanna, Illinois? College kids in New York? PYMNTS also have an axe to grind to juice the story:
“Sept. 9, 2014 – when Tim Cook took the stage at Apple’s WWDC and introduced Apple Pay….The media and industry pundits went bananas. Reports predicted that soon, plastic cards would be a relic, and that Apple Pay at the point of sale would markedly eclipse their usage and utility.”
Ha ha stupid Apple fanbois, joke’s on you.
Let’s put all of this plastic vs Apple Pay, Face ID with face mask stuff aside for a moment and look at the long bumpy, horribly uneven American payments infrastructure. People in America are used to plastic but EMV chip cards are fairly new, contactless cards are even newer. And people are not used to face masks, it’s not part of the culture. I bet if PYMNTS did local surveys of people using Apple Pay Express Transit in New York (OMNY), Washington DC (SmarTrip), San Fransisco (Clipper), I guarantee you the Apple Pay usage rates are way higher because: (1) it’s incredibly convenient (2) Express Transit doesn’t care if you wear a face mask, it just works. Too bad those transit cards can’t be used for Express Transit payments too because people would use them…a lot.
Japan by comparison has higher Apple Pay usage rates, it was 27% back in 2018, and this before COVID and the Japanese government CASHLESS rebate campaign which did a lot to increase the contactless reader footprint for smaller merchants. But it’s simpler than that, I think the difference can be easily summed up with 2 points: (1) face masks are part of the culture in Japan, people are used to them, (2) paying for stuff using Apple Pay Suica, with or without a face mask, is incredibly fast, convenient and blends seamlessly with the long established transit IC standard with mobile making it far more useful.
Since last week’s Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services hearings regarding the so called Apple Pay monopoly and the pointless debate of Android only Host Card Emulation (HCE) ‘virtual secure element’ vs. a hardware embedded secure element (eSE), Apple has been busy rolling out new Apple Pay Wallet services: Australian health insurance Wallet card support and digital vaccination certificates, ING Belgium and FNB South Africa additions, and today’s Student ID expansion to more universities in America including the first international addition in Canada. The last item was particularly interesting as Apple issued a press release that included new partners beyond Blackboard: Transact, CBORD, TouchNet, Atrium, HID Global, and Allegion. MIFARE and FeliCa are the 2 big protocols used for ID cards, both fully supported in iPhone and Apple Watch. Hopefully we’ll see more international Student ID card support going forward.
Japanese IT reporters have been writing about the recent addition of Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 JE (Japan Edition) to the KDDI au lineup. All the Chinese manufacturers have been bringing new models with Mobile FeliCa Osaifu Keitai support as more or less standard, but like most Android smartphones including Google Pixel, even though the hardware is the same everywhere, Mobile FeliCa is only activated for Japanese models.
The Xiaomi product manager interview casually mentions that only 20% or so of Android Osaifu Keitai device holders actually use the feature. Why bother adding it then? I suspect Osaifu Keitai usage rates vary widely depending on the region, much higher for Tokyo and other metro areas, less in rural areas. It would be really interesting to compare Osaifu Keitai usage rates with Apple Pay as I also suspect Apple Pay Japan usage rates likely leave Osaifu Keitai in the dust. As for the real reason why Chinese smartphones manufacturers are adding Mobile FeliCa support: the digital My Number ID card launching in 2022 requires it. One out of ten people living in Tokyo and other metropolitan areas is a Chinese national…do the math.
The American bred internet cancel culture that started during the Obama years and went ballistic during the Trump years shows no signs of abating as battle lines are constantly redrawn to silence a somebody that somebody else wants silenced. And it has become an entrenched issue thanks to AI driven SNS content. As Tim Pool adroitly points out, and long term surveys confirm, the current American racial crisis didn’t happen until the Reddit and YouTube generation raised on endlessly looping AI driven police brutality video content came of age perceiving their virtual world as the real one. That’s the unfolding tragedy as perceptions based on virtual life replace real ones.
As bad as this is, evil players and big tech use virtual life to intimidate, blackmail and destroy real ones. That’s exactly what happened evidently when eBay’s supervisor of security operations decided to cancel the EcommerceBytes blog and carried out a cyberstalking campaign (including surveillance), against the husband and wife blogging team. Their astonishing story was published by the Boston Globe. It’s reads like the script of Michael Clayton (I prefer the Japanese title: The Fixer). eBay conducted an investigation, pushed out the CEO with a golden parachute and issued a statement that, of course, acknowledged the wrong but said ‘it’s okay now because the baddies are gone.’ Until next time, that is. eBay, of course, didn’t offer any compensation.
The Buddha’s face isn’t seen a fourth time
When the 3rd Tokyo State of Emergency (SOE) was announced, I predicted it would’t go well. Sure enough, infections started to rise before the end of SOE 3. Now we are in SOE 4 and infection rates are skyrocketing, well, skyrocketing compared to rates that were low to begin with. So life goes on as usual, the commuter time trains are crowded as usual, people go shopping as usual, there is nothing remotely panic-like despite media hysteria narratives of a ‘medical system breakdown.’
As always, it’s complicated. Few people are actually dying from COVID (and don’t forget that hospitals get a Japanese government subsidy when they report a COVID death, other deaths don’t pay). Influenza and pneumonia are much more real long term threats. Lockdowns and vaccination mandates will be impossible to implement as all the government tools to do so were locked away by the GHQ occupation and restructuring of Japan. Any attempt to invoke those kinds of centralized powers requires changing the American created Japanese constitution and nobody wants to do that (fun fact: the English language constitution of Japan is the official one, the Japanese language one a fake). Not that the situation is dire, a little context helps. And don’t forget the overall Japanese death rate dropped in 2020 YOY thanks to all that mask wearing and hand sanitizing.
Given the utter lack of useful long term planning demonstrated by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, the most likely course of action will be: attempting real fines for restaurants, bars, etc. that don’t follow SOE requests. Good luck with that.
My partner is a doctor so from day one of the COVID crisis I have been listening to a few mantras: 1) Vaccinations don’t stop people from getting infected, they lessen the severity if you do, 2) COVID is basically a cold virus so learning to live and deal with it, with good treatments instead of vaccinations, is the best long term adaptation, 3) Extensive PCR testing is a waste of time and money (especially at this stage, but a good money maker for the providers).
When the local city government started the vaccination reservation program in June we signed up for a first shot today, July 30. It seemed like an easy decision then, but as reports from heavily vaccinated Israel and UK that infections were picking up because of the Delta variant, which the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations don’t cover, the mood started to change in the Japanese medical community for vaccinating low risk groups. A wait and see mood as a safer Japanese developed vaccination is said to be available by the end of this year. Better to wait for a new improved vaccination than a 3rd round of the same old current one that is loosing traction. Sure enough vaccinations rates started to stall this week as similar sentiments spilled into the general public.
And there is the vaccination certificate brouhaha. I want to visit my father next spring but getting a vaccination now means I have to get it all over again as the Pfizer•Moderna shots are only good for 4 months…if vaccination certificates are required to travel from Japan to America. As of today, they are not, although things can and do change every single day.
And so it went with every new piece of research and field report. Reasons to get vaccinated, reasons to wait. In the midst of uncertainty I was thankful for the relatively level headed Japanese approach compared with hysteria and politically driven media narratives in America. The most level headed piece I read was a recent Slate piece, The Noble Lies of COVID-19, that helped me understand the USA situation, along with Alex Berenson’s Here We Go Againandthe long detailedOn Driving SARS-CoV2 Extinctby Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein.
After talking about it all week we decided to go ahead with our vaccination reservations. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any reservations about it. I think a lot of people are feeling the same. The most important thing one can do is take care of their health. Stay safe, stay healthy.
I saw a well dressed man getting on the Yamanote train yesterday. He was youngish and looked very professional but stood jarringly out of place without a face mask. I have not seen a person without a face mask on any train in over a year. Then I remembered, almost 4 million front line medical workers in Japan have received COVID vaccinations, he was probably a doctor. As the vaccination program ramps up in Japan we’ll see more people without masks riding public transit. A nice sign that normal life is slowly returning.
One of the interesting things about getting COVID vaccinations in Japan is that medical authorities recommend being accompanied by a friend, family member, partner, etc. Don’t do it alone. I understand why. I always feel lousy after getting my annual flu shot, sometimes less, sometimes more but always lousy. Japanese blogging their experience after getting the COVID vaccination suggest that you will feel very lousy for most of the day you get it. Lay down lousy, not shuffle through the work day lousy. Consider yourself lucky if side effects are light. I don’t look forward to it, but will do the duty when my number comes around.
A young co-worker tested positive for COVID yesterday so today is PCR test day for the entire office. The office pays but everybody has to find a testing place on their own. Fortunately a PCR test place opened up at Shinjuku Kabukicho yesterday and accepts all major cashless payments including Suica so I was in luck and made an online reservation.
If you go, all you do is make an online reservation, receive an email with name, number and time, then line up with everybody else. When it’s your turn to enter, show your smartphone email number and name to the staff, pay with Suica, iD, QUICPay, etc. (Rakuten Pay), take the pouch and go to to any empty partition then drool into a vial with a straw. When done, put straw in vial, cap it, stick your label on, put in plastic pouch and give it the staff.
It’s a dire but perfect setting for a cashless only operation: limited time and staff processing a constant stream of people who can’t be bothered making change. Staff and customers don’t want to risk health either, the less contact the better for all concerned. It’s also the perfect 2020 Japan cashless wrap up: a cashless only COVID PCR testing facility in a year where COVID relentlessly drove cashless use.